Wikipedia recently received a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for the first year of work on the “Knowledge Engine” project. According to the formal agreement between Wikipedia’s parent company Wikimedia, and the Knight Foundation — the purpose of the project is to build a search engine that can oppose Google.
Initially, the grant was awarded in September 2015, but details were only made public this week. The total budget of the project to build what’s being called “the world’s first transparent search engine” is estimated at $2.5 million; though only a fraction of that has been received to date.
The document lays out further rationale behind the project, stating the Knowledge Engine project is needed as a way to respond to online trends. In Wikipedia’s case, this includes more searchers shifting to mobile, a drop in page views, and information pulled from Wikipedia being displayed directly in Google search results.
Also contained in the formal agreement is text explaining the company’s desires to democratize search, and create a search engine that doesn’t serve commercial interests.
“The project will pave the way for non-commercial information to be found and utilized by internet users… it will make the Internet’s most relevant information more accessible and openly curated, and it will create an open data engine that’s completely free of commercial interests.”
The Knowledge Engine will work by searching through material contained on Wikipedia, and its sister free knowledge sites. Wikipedia believes, according to documents submitted with its grant application, that the only thing holding this project back from being successful is the possibility Google “could suddenly devote resources to a similar project.”
This is not Wikipedia’s first attempt at building a search engine. There was the Wikia Search project of 2009, which was abandoned after not attracting enough interested users. When the project failed, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales stated he would one day return to search. Seven years it looks like he’s willing to take on the challenge once more.